Tag Archives: body image

Pick Yourself Up

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Well, I’m here. I’m back. I fell off the proverbial wagon, but here I am. In the past 4 or 5 days, I’ve had two close friends ask me how my progress is going, and I honestly told them what was going on in my life, and why I had fallen off the wagon. I faced my failure, and haven’t given up. And for that, I am proud of myself. I am learning, growing in my abilities and dedication to my goal, and discovering that I am truly not alone – which is astonishing! In the last few days, I’ve come to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with many of the issues I address in this blog. One of those issues is body image…

This past Saturday, I went out with a wonderful bunch of ladies for dinner. After dinner, we were walking down the street (in a very trendy neighbourhood in Vancouver) to grab a coffee. As we walked past a restaurant/bar with an outdoor patio, one of the ladies said to me, “Did you see him checking you out. His eyes went head to toe and back up again!” I laughed it off, and, honestly? didn’t really believe her.  Why would a man look at me like that?

The next day, I was talking to my friend Jenn, and we were talking about body image. I expressed my disbelief that someone would see a full-body picture of me and still be interested in dating. She said to me, “Do you really hate your body that much that you cannot accept that a man may actually like you for you?” I said, “Yes,” with a surety that I think kind of shocked her.

Later that evening, I chatted with a friend from high school, and brought up some of these issues. When she told me that she, too, had body image issues, frankly, I was shocked. I have always seen her as a beautiful woman with a great figure (of which, frankly, I’m somewhat jealous!).

It was then that I realized that pretty much everyone has some type of issue with their body. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, it’s easy to find something wrong with your body. Which is crazy, isn’t it? And, I think it speaks to unrealistic expectations placed on us by the media to look a certain way.

While I went for my walk today (my 2nd big long walk in as many days – yay me!) I was listening to some personal growth podcasts. There are a few things that really stuck with me….

A computer, without electricity is simply just a useless object. It doesn’t matter how fast the processors are, how many amazing programs are installed, and what operating system its running if there is no power to the unit. We are like that too – our bodies are simply an object. Our knowledge – everything we’ve learned – are like the programs installed in the computer. But our emotional/spiritual self, well, that’s the electricity that brings life to everything.

I really liked that metaphor. I have been focusing so much on my physical body lately, that I’ve forgotten that this body is not who I am.  When I identify myself primarily through my body (an “object” which, as I’ve already owned up to, don’t like all that much), it is damaging to my emotional well being. When I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I beat myself up, and make myself feel terrible.

But, I am SO much more than that! As a wise kindergarten teacher once said, “Karen is awesome.” (btw – JP: I don’t think I’ll ever forget that speech you gave on the last day of school!).  It still feels weird that people could look at  me and not see me the way I do, but I am beginning to understand that people do see me for who I am and not what I look like.

Don’t you think it’s time that I started seeing myself that way?

Body Image

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Yesterday, I came across a fantastic blog called Fat Girl, PhD by a young woman named Katie. Actually, she kind of stumble across me, leaving a comment on my blog. With a name like Fat Girl PhD, I just had to visit her blog! And, I am so very glad I did. It is comforting to find someone else who has dealt with similar issues as mine and come out the other side, successful. Her blog truly gives me hope that I can reach my goals as well.

One article on Katie wrote got me thinking about the issue of body image. She listed some interesting statistics about body image (which I would encourage you to go and read). What struck me was the high percentage of people – both men and women – who struggle with body image issues. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re overweight, underweight, short, or tall, young or old: pretty much everyone has something about themselves with which they are not happy.

And, honestly? I’m one of them. I really don’t like the way I look. I see myself in the mirror, and all I can see is a body which I don’t like, and am convinced repulses everyone around me. The way I see my body is a huge obstacle preventing me from truly loving myself. And, I think if I loved myself more, I may be more motivated to take care of my body. At least, that’s the way I think it works. (Something tells me, though, that I may have it wrong – perhaps if I took better care of my body, I’d love myself more!)

It doesn’t help that, during my formative years, I had numerous people tease me about being overweight. I was a chubby pre-teen girl (who eventually outgrew the baby fat and ended up with a great figure in high school, only I didn’t recognize how beautiful I was). Those words really stuck with me, and I feel the echoes of them even to this day. Add to that the societal pressure to conform to unrealistic body shapes, and the “quick fix’ diet industry (of which I have been a victim for far too long), and *bang* you’ve got one grown woman with incredibly low self esteem when it comes to body image.

For the last month or so, I’ve been feeling really down. I think my body image has been the culprit for this case of the blues. And, because I’ve been feeling down, I haven’t been putting as much effort into my appearance, which makes me feel worse about myself.

A few months ago, I was actually making progress in this department. I took an inventory of my body and all of the wonderful things it’s done for me over the years. Giving birth and nurturing three babies who have grown into fine young men. Carrying me through not one but two university degrees. It’s survived numerous illnesses and injuries. In short, my body has always been there for me, supporting me in everything I do, and, basically, loving me unconditionally.

And what do I do to it? I ignore it. I look for its faults and flaws, then criticise it. I feed it unhealthy foods. I don’t exercise it enough. Holy cow! Most people take better care of their pets than I do of my body. And honestly: I deserve better care than a pet cat!

So now what? What do I do to change my body image? I don’t know. I really don’t. I suppose I need to start taking better care of my body, feeding it healthier foods and exercising more. I also need to change my mindset, and accept the body God has given me. Sure, I don’t have the body of a 1940s pin-up model (which, if you ask me, is gorgeous! That’s what I want to look like some day – beautiful, healthy and curvaceous),  but I am healthy. I can walk unassisted. I can bend down and tie my shoes. My body allows me to dance and celebrate.

My body deserves to be loved. After all, look how far it has brought me!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….?

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I came across this photo the other day:

At first I was like “You go girl!”

But now? Yeah. Not so much.

What’s that, you say? I’m being a hypocrite? After all, Karen, you’ve been everything from a size 12 to a size 24. You should embrace your curves, love your body. Let’s empower the fat girls.

I can call them fat girls because I’m one of them. You skinny bitches? Unless you’ve ever bought and worn queen-sized pantyhose, shut up. You can’t call us fat girls. Only fat girls can call us fat girls.

Yup. I’m one of them, but I’m not sure I see this photo as empowering. At first I did. I thought, “Wow, good for you, chubby girl! Posing naked with a sign takes a lot of courage. I sure as hell wouldn’t do it.”  And, I do agree with the whole perception of beauty thing – really, is a size 2 that beautiful? Bony yes. Unhealthy, most of the time. (I’m sure there are some size 2 women out there who complain about needing to gain weight. To them I say, “Here ya go! Have some of mine!”)

Yes, this picture does raise a good point in making society question their perceptions of beauty. Beauty shouldn’t have a prescribed size. All women should be seen as beautiful, because true beauty comes from within, and isn’t based on your dress size. Trust me: I’ve met some damn ugly size 2s before.

So, what’s the big deal, you ask. The big deal is that being a plus-sized woman isn’t healthy. Carrying around extra weight has SO many health implications. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Diabetes. Osteoarthritis. Coronary Heart Disease. Gallstones. Stroke. Liver Disease. Breast Cancer. Colon Cancer. Sleep Apnea. Mental Health issues.  Don’t believe me? Believe the Centres for Disease Control.

I’m sorry. That ain’t beautiful. Diseases, especially preventable ones, are ugly. I’m not saying that a plus-sized woman can’t be beautiful. What I am saying is that her beauty should not be based on her body size, but on what’s inside her.

But wait: if she’s fat, then what’s inside her is the potential for a lot of ugly diseases.

You know what’s beautiful? Wanna know what’s sexy as hell?

Being healthy. That is glorious.

And that’s why I’m doing this. I am not on this journey to  drop down to a svelte size 2 and suddenly be gorgeous. I am on this journey to be healthy and happy.

As I was researching this post, it hit me: I’ve already been affected by one of the diseases listed on the CDC site. I have osteoarthritis. I’m thirty-friggin-nine years old and I have arthritis. So far, my life hasn’t been too negatively impacted by this disease. So far. But if I don’t take control of my health, it will be.

Every so often, I’ll see people in wheelchairs or scooters that are morbidly obese. I try my best to feel compassion for them and not judge them. In fact, I do feel sorry for them – they cannot be comfortable in the state they are in. I can’t help but wonder, “Which came first? The weight or the mobility issues?” I’m sure it’s different in every case. But I do know that the less you move, the less mobile you become, and the easier it is to gain the weight. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to run into my 40s, not drag my ass into them!

So, here I sit, a plus-sized girl, struggling with her own body-image issues, questioning society’s perception of beauty, cursing at Hollywood for the hyper-sexualization of sticks with boobs, unhappy with my silhouette, and, honestly, feeling a bit stuck in my journey. Personally, I don’t see a size 22 as beautiful. I see beauty in the person’s soul, the way they treat others, the way they treat themselves.

Truth be told, I struggle with feelings of beauty.

About two months ago, I had a man tell me I was beautiful. When recounting this to my dear friend J., I told her, “That was the first time a man has ever called me beautiful.” She was astonished! She didn’t believe me. I told her, that with the exception of my father (and I honestly can’t remember him saying something like that – not because he doesn’t feel that way, he’s just a man of few words), I had never had a man tell me I was beautiful before.

And sure, it felt fantastic to hear. The important thing was that I was actually able to hear it. I was able to hear it because I first believed it about myself. Yes, I struggle with self-concept and body image (show me a woman who doesn’t!!). But that night, when this incredibly handsome man told me that I was beautiful, I actually believed him because I was able to see the beauty within me.

My beauty has nothing to do with my dress size. It is not going to increase as my dress size decreases. No, my beauty has everything to do with who I am, inside. And who I am is a woman who loves herself enough to take care of her physical, spiritual, and emotion self. That is what beauty is. Not a dress size.

And I guess that’s it: that’s why I had such an issue with this picture. I don’t care if you’re a size 22 a size 2: if you’re not truly taking care of yourself, truly loving and respecting who you are, you’re not beautiful.

Funny thing is: lately, I haven’t been feeling all that beautiful. And I know why: it’s because I haven’t been taking care of my physical self. I’m still struggling to find a balance in the realm of self-care. When one area needs more attention than others, something suffers. Lately, I’ve been dealing with some pretty personal issues, and focusing my energy in the spiritual and emotional realms. The physical care then suffers, which makes me feel worse emotionally.

I need to make physical self-care an essential part of my day. I can’t just tend to it when a problem arises. That’s how I ended up with Osteoarthritis.  I don’t want to add to my health concerns from that list from the CDC. Time to make my physical health a priority.

Because being healthy is beautiful!

Sticks and Stones…

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Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I remember chanting this iconic rhyme as a pudgy 12 year old, not so much to fend off the bullies who were teasing me about being fat, but more to try to convince myself that their harsh words couldn’t hurt me.

Can I just say something here? That whole “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” thing is complete crap. A big, fat lie. Sure, sticks and stones hurt, but those wounds heal. The wounds inflicted by words last much, much longer.

I bring this up for two reasons: (1) My relationship with the words used to hurt me about my weight, and (2) the overall power that words have, and how we can use them to help us or hinder us.

I was teased mercilessly when I was a kid. Kids called me many names, but the ones that stuck had to do with my weight. While I wasn’t fat, I definitely had a bit of baby fat that stuck around until junior high. But, those words I heard as a pre-teen stuck, and I eventually began to believe those mean voices. Even though I wasn’t fat, I saw myself as such. Fast forward to my twenties. I found myself married to a man who was often heard saying, “I’d love you if you were thinner.” Ouch. All of those words added up, causing unseen wounds that damaged me more than any physical violence ever could have.

It has taken me a lot of hard work to overcome the scars those words left. But that’s not why I bring it up. No, I mention this because I just realized the creative power possessed by those words. When I was being tormented in grades 9 and 10, with kids calling me “fat,” I was, in fact, not fat at all. I stood at about 5’9″ and weighed 160-165 lbs. That means my BMI was around 24 – by all means, a very healthy weight. But now? Well, let’s just say I’m not a healthy weight and my BMI needs some serious attention.

Think about this: The words were spoken. I believed the words. I became fat. Words are incredibly powerful things. They have such an amazing ability to create. This is why I start each day with some very healthy, positive words each morning after my yoga work out.

I recently read don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. His first agreement is “be impeccable with your words,” since words are so powerful:

“Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes directly from God… Through the word you express your creative power. It is through the word that you manifest everything… The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life… But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you.” (The Four Agreements p. 26)

Before I encountered this book, I never really thought about the magic power of words. I’m sure I had a sense of it; as a teacher, I suppose I’ve always known that the words I tell my students have great power. Since becoming aware of Ruiz’s Four Agreements, and trying to put them into practice, I have endeavoured to be impeccable with my words. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I’m not as careful with my words as I could be. But the best part of the Four Agreements is that last agreement: Always Do Your Best. Slowly but surely, my words are creating a much more beautiful life for myself.

When I began, I focused on being impeccable with my words towards others; I try to speak kindly about others and avoid gossiping. I have definitely noticed a difference in my relationship with others. Lately, I’ve been focusing on being more aware with the words I tell myself. Slowly, I’m beginning to see myself in a different light.

I wonder what would happen if I just started thinking of myself as an athlete? If I heard the words “You’re fat” so many times that I began to believe it, and then it came true, couldn’t the same happen in the other direction? What if I harnessed the creative power of words to create a more fit, healthier me? Sure, it may not be true…. yet.  But the more I tell myself that I am fit, strong, healthy, active and athletic, the healthier, stronger and more active I will become! Isn’t that amazing?!

 

Post Script:

(This has absolutely nothing to do with my whole “Fit By 40” theme, but it does illustrate my point)

I can’t help but wonder how this applies to my profession. What if, as a teacher, my words had the ability to create the atmosphere in my classroom. What if I, when talking about my students, I said things like, “My kids are amazing! They are creative, energetic, curious, and social.” What type of class would that create? On the other hand, if I always said, “Oh my god, my class is insane. They are so messy, they never sit still, they don’t shut up and listen. I’ve had it.” I wonder how that would effect the atmosphere in my classroom? Sure, it sounds like one of those “which came first? the chicken or the egg?” type of questions… but with my understanding of how amazing words are, I can’t help but think that the way I talk about my students can affect their behaviour.

To be honest, in my short career as a school teacher, I have observed this already. I’ve heard teachers sing the praises of their students, and I’ve heard teachers moaning about how terrible their kids are. I honestly can’t help but wonder if the teacher’s words create some of the problems in their class. All the more reason to be impeccable with my words.

Progress?

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I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged lately. I haven’t been seeing the progress I’d like to see on the scale. The numbers are just not going the right way. They’re just kinda hovering there. Without moving. And it’s pissing me off.

At least, it was totally pissing me off. Until I started thinking about it. When it comes to weight loss, we’re so quick to base our success on the numbers on the scale. Of course, that is the ultimate goal, right? To see those numbers go down. And we want it now. Is it just me, or is our society fixated on instant gratification?

In the past, I have lost weight quickly. It was great to see those numbers go down, down, down. People noticed. People compliment. It felt great. But, it didn’t last. Had it lasted, I wouldn’t be writing this today.

I think that’s why I’ve chosen to focus on being fit instead of just weight loss. But, old habits die hard, and when I see those numbers on the scale stagnate, it stings. So, I’m trying to find other ways of measuring my success.

I had one of those moments this morning. About a month ago, I purchased another yoga DVD. I was getting bored with the one workout I had, and wanted some variety. This new DVD was a lot harder, and I wasn’t able to complete the workout. I was just proud of myself for trying.

Well, this morning, I did it! I finished the entire workout! And it felt good. No. It felt great. This got me to thinking: it wasn’t that long ago that a back injury rendered me almost incapacitated. I could barely walk up the stairs, getting out of bed was nearly impossible, and sitting in my car for more than 5 minutes brought me to tears. After just over a month of regular morning yoga, I can now hop out of bed and run down the stairs to do my workout; I can touch my toes; I rarely need to take any medication … it’s great! I went from taking up to 14 prescription pain killers per day to taking one or two non-prescription pills per week.

That’s what this journey is all about: feeling healthy and fit. Sure, the numbers on the scale don’t reflect my progress…. yet. But one day, they will. I will continue to make little changes, improving my health one day at a time, one step at a time. Little changes add up to big success.

I can do this. I will do this. I will not let the scale rule me. I will focus on how I feel, physically and emotionally, and celebrate all the little accomplishments along the way.

I have made a lot of little changes in the last month. I’m feeling healthier, I have more energy, my mood has improved, I feel stronger, my posture is improving, and, bloody hell, I can touch my toes!

In my next post, I’ll highlight some of the little changes I’ve made. Thanks for reading!

 

Loving my Body

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Yep. That about sums it up. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

For years I told myself “I’ll love my body when…” When I’ve lost the weight. When I’m a certain size.  Sure, I’ve lost weight before, and it felt great! I was even beginning to like how I looked. Especially when I was working out (I was beginning to have a great ass!)

But you know what?  It didn’t last. And I realize now that, even if I had reached my goal weight and size, I still wouldn’t have loved my body. If I wait until I lose the weight to love myself, I’ll never lose the weight and I’ll never love myself.

It shouldn’t be about waiting to have the perfect body to love myself. You see, I think I’ve got it all wrong. What if, hear me out, what if I loved my body THEN lost the weight? What would happen then?

I took an inventory of my body the other day, and made a mental list of all the ways in which my body has served me for 38 years. It’s a long list! It created and birthed three amazing kids, nourishing them all for the first years of their lives; it’s gotten me through illness and injury more times than I can remember; it supported me as I completed my university degrees (even when I injured my back!);  it carried me through my darkest days even when I didn’t feel like carrying on; it moves in amazing ways (who knew I could swing dance like that?!); it hugs my children, kisses lovers, wipes away tears, and jumps for joy. In all of my pain and suffering, in all of my celebrations, my body has been there for me.

And what have I done? I’ve mistreated it. I’ve fed it unhealthy food. I’ve neglected to care for it by not exercising. If I treated my kids this way, I’d have social services after me in a heartbeat! Like the above cartoon suggests, we treat our kids better than we treat our bodies. Of  course I love my kids, even when they’re not the most loveable. I don’t expect them to be perfect. I love them no matter what.

Why can’t I love my body that way? Why is my love for my physical self so conditional? I’m not fair to myself.  I deserve to love my body. I deserve to treat my body with love and respect.

As a matter of fact, every morning, at the end of my yoga workout, as I’m meditating for a few minutes, I tell myself, “I will treat my body with respect and love today.”

I don’t always have good days. The past few days have been not-so-great, and I haven’t been treating my body in a loving way. Let me tell you, I sure can feel the difference.  But the amazing thing is, this is a day-by-day, hour-to-hour endeavour. I don’t need to be perfect in loving my body. I just need to do my best.